The Men of Konopelski’s Meats and Their Very Cool Hats! (All Photos By Gail)
Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed covering the slow return of various favorite trade shows, such as the Affordable Art Fair and NY Now while holding-out for what I like to call ‘The Big One.’ Finally, after an absence of two excruciating years, the Summer Fancy Food Show (sponsored by the Specialty Food Association) made what can only be called a triumphant comeback in June of this year. It has taken me this long to distill the experience because, wow, the show was just overwhelming on so many levels.
Keeping Covid safety guidelines in mind, if I had to guess why it took a bit longer for the SFA to get their ducks in a row, I’d say it has everything to do with the fact that you simply cannot do Fancy Food with a mask on your face: because you are grazing constantly. I think they had to wait until a high percentage of the population was vaccinated, mask mandates had been dropped, and for the infection numbers in NYC to be relatively low, before they wanted to take on that degree of responsibility. That said, I was (mostly) maskless in a pretty darn crowded Javits Center for 6 hours and I did not get Covid! Win Win!
The show was back to being enormous, with thousands of booths onsite, of which I saw possibly only one third. Of the vendors I had time to visit, there were way fewer live-cooking demos going on this year, so I was eating mostly packaged foods and small snacks, and not a lot of hot or freshly-made foods. So, let’s get to this much-anticipated recap, starting with some of the foods I enjoyed eating.
It is no contest that my favorite food at the show was the Mozzarella Poppers by Damascus Bakeries and Brooklyn Bred. Mozzarella Poppers are bite-sized balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, stuffed with a filling such as marinara sauce or spicy queso, then breaded and fried crispy. They were insane and I recommend them to anyone who likes cheesy, crunchy goodness.
Karine & Jeff Fine French Cuisine make delicious hearty soups that come in a jar. Their soups contain only organic ingredients sourced from local producers of southwest France. They had such a lovely booth, and they gave me jar of soup to take home which lasted several days! Check them out here.
Do you like Peanut Butter? I sure do. B Nutty specializes in unique flavored varieties of peanut butter that go right from jar to mouth without any hassle or fuss. I received a sample-sized jar of their Irresistible Pretzel variety that has White Chocolate Chips mixed in it, and I ate the entire thing with spoon while sitting on my bed watching TV. As it should be.
Marzipan (a confection made from sweetened almond paste) is one of those polarizing treats that people either love madly or just do not ‘get.’ I happen to be in the pro-marzipan camp, and so I fell hard for Marzipops marzipan candy lollipops which come in all sorts of adorable shapes! OMG so cute. This marzipan is so creamy and delicious, it literally melts in your mouth — and what a fantastic idea for gifts and seasonal promotions!
Gourmet popcorn snacks continue to be on trend, and Cookie Pop is staying in the lead! Their Oreo popcorn features fluffy popcorn lightly coated with the sweet cream filling and chocolate cookie crunch from pulverized Oreo sandwich cookies. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!
It was hard to overlook the fact that Creamsicle is this year’s Birthday Cake when it comes flavoring every variety of treat you can imagine. Pop Time Creations has perfectly captured the orange-and-vanilla flavors of a frozen creamsicle pop in a bag of popcorn. Well played.
The Carnegie Deli was a fixture in midtown Manhattan until its closure in 2016. Fortunately, the brand continues to sell a variety of products online, and one of their newest items seen at SFFS is the Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Bites. You want to eat them, because you are a fat lard.
After all that face-stuffing, you need a thirst-quenching beverage. GuS Soda, which stands for ‘Grown Up Soda’ did the trick with its refreshing blend of real juice and just enough pure cane sugar to leave you satisfied with a smile on your face. I love their simple-yet-artsy labels as well! Tip: Use GuS as a mixer in all of your fruity cocktail recipes!
Moving along to my next category, Fun Packaging and Funny Brand Names or Slogans, we have Death Wish Coffee, and I think their packaging tells you all you need to know! (Watch for this brand to also make an appearance in the Best Booth Display category!)
Do you like Phat Beets? Rick’s Picks, a purveyor of fine pickled vegetables, has you covered.
Hot Monkey Nuts assorted nut snacks wins the best tag line award for “Got the Guts? Eat My Nuts!” Yes! Eat them!
If you are like me, you are already singing “You’re Crumbelievable” (Oh!) silently to yourself while looking at the above photo. Crumbelievable’s tagline “just the crumbs…hold the cake!” is a bit misleading though, because this is not just a bag of crumbs, but tiny crumb cake bites. Sing with me: “Everybody wants crumb . . .”
Putting a Cute Food Mascot on your packaging is also quite popular. How could you resist snacking on these Tropical Madness artisanal plantain chips, when their mascot is an deranged-looking green plantain, I ask yez? Food mascots are like babies: the cuter they are, the more you want to eat them.
Here’s another cute food mascot, an adorably ugly sweet potato, representing Uglies Chips, which are made from imperfect-looking vegetables, thus cutting down on food waste. They taste delicious and everyone wants to love them, because ugly is the new cute.
Oh, the cuteness of this little anthropomorphic jar of Zesty Pink Lemonade livening up the envelope of Fruit-a-Peel real fruit snacks (aka ‘fruit flats’). Fruit flats are so tasty, you won’t know whether to eat it or make friends with it.
Sometimes, packaging is not so cute on its own, as is the case with the Pocas family of ginger products. That is why they bring the win with their tiny mascot: the Human Ginger Root! Pocas is the cutest ginger ever!!
Here’s a clever idea: Squeezable Instant Pancake Mix (yes, I just typed that) by Happy Grub. Look at all of these cute little guys on their packaging! And look what you can make with it:
Luke, I am your Breakfast!
Popadelics deserves all the brownie points for the very psychedelic packaging design for their Crunchy Mushroom Chips that taste good, but do not make you feel like you are on Acid. Ask me how I know.
Yazoo Yaupon is a company that makes naturally-caffeinated teas and their packaging is also very psychedelic, but the buzz it gives you is not.
Secret Aardvark Hot Sauce: Getting it right on so many levels.
Holy Perogy got its start as the first fast-food perogy restaurant in the Greater Toronto area, bringing together a fusion of cultures to a menu of diverse dishes that all start with a base of authentic, home-style pierogi. Wow! For SFFS, Holy Perogy! showcased a new line of premium frozen perogies in a variety of flavors. Sadly, the lady whose photo you see on the package (and what a likeness!) did not have any samples for us to try at the show (disappointing!), so you’ll have to check them out on your own to find out how they taste.
From Holy Perogy to Holy Shit: Pickle-Flavor Cotton Candy is a thing that exists. Check out the full line of exotic gourmet Cotton Candy from Chocolate Storybook at This Link!
Prepare to shelter in place as I lob a flavor bomb at you in the form of these grenade-shaped bottles of The General’s Hot Sauce.
A-Salt Weapon — get it? Oh, the cleverness. The General’s — which specializes in gourmet spicy sauces and seasonings — is a Veteran-owned company and they deserve your support, but I would buy this product just to get the bottle!
At long last, we are hitting the home stretch (thank god, right?) with our very Favorite Booth Displays and Fun Props from the show! You might recall me mentioning earlier how Death Wish Coffee would appear in an encore performance. I’m sure you will agree that nothing can really top their in-booth photo-station that allows you to get inside a giant mug of coffee being poured by the Grim Reaper himself! I wish I could go back in time and have someone take a picture of me being symbolically scalded to death, but time travel does not exist.
The Honolulu Cookie Company, makers of premium shortbread, stayed on-brand with their booth’s giant Pineapple-Shaped Mom and Baby cookies in native Hawaiian dress. Adorbs.
Couch Mix Snacks made a real couch the focal point of their booth, and it works for me!
Forget Trail Mix; Couch Mix makes snacks the way they were originally meant to be: delicious, salty goodness enjoyed from the comfort of a couch! Yes!
Street Carts are a great way to add extra product display space while creating interest and also adding a divider to separate your booth from the next one over. The cart above is from Moda Foods, who make all kinds of tasty frozen desserts, specializing in Baklava!
St. Michel is a baking company known for their delicious tiny Madeleine cakes. Their brand-identified display cart provided a space for them to hand out samples and chat up show attendees — and I love the little chicken perched atop the canopy!
Fox’s U-Bet Syrup’s (from Brooklyn Originals) have been flavoring egg creams and topping sundae’s for 100 years!
We made sure to stop by the Soda Fountain located right in their booth for a chocolate egg cream made-to-order! Ah, refreshing!
I don’t know whose booth featured this Tomato Sauce Can Table, but it’s pretty cool.
Mush Garden Shitake Mushroom Chips have a cute little Mushroom Guy as a Mascot! He is definitely attention-grabbing!
The Matzo Project (tagline: Would it kill you to try something new?) makes irresistible chips and snacks from real matzo. Following the theme of their cartoon spokesperson — your Jewish Nana — they stuffed a couple of old-school handbags with samples!
Because Nana always has snacks for you in her purse! I cant stand how cute this idea is.
Hey look, Pocas is back with their display of canned Bubble Teas accompanied by tiny bubble tea replicas that they had made just for the show! A round of applause, please!
I hope you enjoyed reading this recap of the Summer Fancy Food Show and learning about many new food products that you can buy and try for yourself.
See You in 2023!
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